Hebrew and Aramaic Letters
So far this review has reflected the emphasis in biblical study on Greek letters. The letters embedded in the historical books of the Hebrew Bible have received less attention, although the increasing frequency of such in the later books (Ezra; cf. 1 Maccabees) perhaps reflects contemporary historiographical conventions of including such text-forms, real or fictitious. Fewer non-biblical Hebrew or Aramaic letters survive, and those that do belong firmly in the category of the ‘real’ (Fitzmyer 1974; Pardee 1982; Lindenberger 2003). Such surviving Jewish letters from the time of the Hebrew Bible—for example, those from Elephantine—offer glimpses into a way of life and practice at which we would not otherwise guess. Again, an epistolographical tradition of conventional structure and terminology can be traced in both Hebrew and Aramaic letters from that period, through the mid-second century CE letters from the camp of Bar Kochba (including, notoriously, one in Greek, which seems to explain the unwarranted use of this language), and into those embedded in rabbinic literature noted above (see Alexander 1984).